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Jim Carrey the actor-writer deconstructs Jim Carrey the character in ‘Memoirs and Misinformation’

Leave it to Jim Carrey to tell his truth best through fiction. Considering his flexible filmography, which ranges from the face-contorting comedy of “Ace Ventura” to the tormented surrealism of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” it’s clear that the 58-year-old actor has never been one for convention.

So it’s not surprising that, in lieu of a traditional memoir, Carrey has reflected on his career with a novel that embraces the “semi” part of “semi-autobiographical.” Co-written with novelist Dana Vachon, “Memoirs and Misinformation” makes for a simultaneously baffling and mesmerizing examination of Carrey’s psyche.

The Carrey we meet — a fictionalized version of the comedic icon, depicted in the third person — is on the edge. He’s “bearded and bleary eyed after months of breakdown and catastrophe,” secluded in his Los Angeles estate, where his only companions are twin guard dogs and a comically excessive home security system. There, Carrey spends his time “play-drowning” in the pool, showering in existentialism and grooming himself so, if he were to suddenly expire, he’d be presentable for the fanboys at the morgue. “Jim Carrey, known for wild pratfalls and joyous mayhem — he curled into a ball and started weeping.” The prologue sets the tone for the sobering rumination on mortality to come.

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So how did Carrey get here? The hazy narrative promptly backtracks to Carrey at a career crossroads. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman — amusingly portrayed as paranoid, nihilistic and “often slightly ill” — has penned a heady Mao Zedong biopic that could be the actor’s Oscar vehicle. But Carrey’s agents are pushing him toward a “Hungry Hungry Hippos” movie (adapted by playwright Kenneth Lonergan, of course) that will show Hollywood the troublesome star can play well with others. Carrey’s personal life isn’t exactly tranquil, either, as he embarks on a whirlwind romance with “Survivor” star turned D-list actress Georgie DeBusschere.

Setting this black comedy in a parallel universe’s version of Hollywood, Carrey and Vachon lovingly skewer countless celebrities. Carrey’s best friend is a Nicolas Cage caricature who rambles about saving humanity from an impending alien invasion. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop goddess persona is complemented here by a dormant thirst for violence. Tom Cruise, who the novel jokingly says can’t be referred to by name for legal reasons, is simply called “Laser Jack Lightning.” Plenty more stars appear throughout the book, which takes aim at such industry pillars as rampant cosmetic surgery and the artificiality of reality TV. The parody echoes the 2013 movie “This Is the End” — complete with apocalyptic underpinnings.

“Memoirs and Misinformation,” by its very nature, lends itself to constant questioning. What is real? And what have Carrey and Vachon invented? Thanks to Carrey’s previous interviews, we know some of the book’s insights are rooted in reality. Carrey looks back on his comic roots, as a 7-year-old desperate to bring a smile to his ill mother’s face, with sincerity. The character also ruminates on a lingering love for Linda Ronstadt, who the real Carrey dated in his 20s. Most wistfully, the novel explores Carrey’s connection to Rodney Dangerfield, and the pain he still feels over the loss of that comic idol.

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As a reimagining of the traditional Hollywood tell-all, “Memoirs and Misinformation” is a compelling curiosity. But the novel beyond the novelty is a bit of a mess. Seemingly central characters and story lines are unceremoniously abandoned, and the book’s absurdist approach eventually wears thin. Did we really need a drug trip in which Carrey imagines a razor-toothed Nancy Reagan devouring infants? With so much esoteric imagery, this fever dream of a novel runs hot and cold.

The book is at its best when Carrey grapples with his insecurities and anxieties. Ultimately, “Memoirs and Misinformation” is about how even larger-than-life figures are prone to feeling small. A bombastic, science fiction-fueled finale hammers home the “Truman Show”-esque idea of being undressed by the all-knowing public eye.

As the fictional Carrey watches paparazzi hijack his image and Netflix algorithms dictate his viewing habits, one senses that he fears, above all else, losing ownership of his own existence. When the novel introduces the idea of Carrey signing over his essence, to be re-created by computer animation in perpetuity (think Peter Cushing in “Rogue One”), he finds the concept unsettling.

With “Memoirs and Misinformation,” Carrey the author got ahead of the curve and wrote his own fictionalization. Yes, the result is undeniably chaotic and indulgent. But it’s unquestionably Carrey.

Thomas Floyd is a multiplatform editor who writes about arts and entertainment for The Washington Post.

By Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon

Knopf. 272 pp. $28

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